Thursday, December 27, 2012

With Every Question: an author interview with Sarah Sundin!

Well I did promise you a treat a couple weeks ago, and though the timing is a bit off due to the holiday rush, I may now reveal the surprise. I contacted Sarah Sundin, author of a series and a half of historical romance, asking if she might be interested in being featured on The Inkpen Authoress. When she said yes, it is needless to announce that I was excited. I first ran into Sarah's writing by winning one of her books, With Every Letter, in a giveaway.

 I received the book, started reading, and was swept up on the rich flood of characters, words, and drama in the story. I am a sworn skeptic of historical romances, having found that most have no plot but boy-meets-girl-and-tears-and-drama-ensue. I mean, honestly. So truth be told, I wasn't expecting to like With Every Letter. Ahem. I was wrong, and I admit it freely. Mrs. Sundin's book actually had substance. So I made Mama read it, then Abigail, lent it another friend, then sent a copy to another friend, and I will make Sarah read it whenever I get it back in my hands. You can read my review of this book here.

So! Sarah Sundin graciously has taken time off her Christmas holidays to have a bit of a visit on the Inkpen Authoress. I asked her a sound dozen questions and she answered them all with a right good will. I tried to ask things I knew you'd be asking. Ho ho! So without any further discussion, here is Sarah Sundin--gracious guest and author extraordinaire!

To begin with, a bio: Sarah Sundin is the author of With Every Letter, the first book in the Wings of the Nightingale series from Revell, and also the Wings of Glory series (A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow). In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to tennis and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. Please visit her at

Rachel: Having read {and rather adored} With Every Letter, I know you write books set in the WWII era. What made you choose this era over another?

Sarah: It’s such a fascinating time period, filled with millions of stories and so much inherent drama and romance—a novelist’s dream. Another thing I like about the World War II era is how ordinary men learned they could do extraordinary things, and how women explored new and exciting roles—while remaining ladies.

Rachel: What book(s) are you working on now?

Sarah: The second book in the Wings of the Nightingale series, On Distant Shores, is at my publisher’s now, and it’s already gone through the first level of edits out of three. I’m currently writing the rough draft of the third book in the series.
Rachel: What is your favorite part of marketing, and how much time do you spend working on publicizing your novels?

Sarah: I’ve found I really enjoy public speaking—both teaching the craft of writing and speaking to various women’s and church groups. Another area of marketing I enjoy is interacting with readers on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. On average, publicity takes about one-third of my work time, which seems to be typical for an author. For a month or two before and after a release date, it takes a greater chunk, and less at other times.

Rachel: How did you decide on “historical romance” as your genre of choice?

Sarah: The romance part came naturally—that’s what draws me to most stories. I like almost all genres if there’s some romantic element. As for history, the story led me there. I started off writing contemporary romances, and then I had the story idea for A Distant Melody, my debut novel. The basic premise wouldn’t work in a contemporary setting. Na├»vely I thought World War II would be easy because it was so recent and wouldn’t require much research. Please don’t laugh too hard. Thank goodness I found I adored researching.

Rachel: Did your love of writing grow from a love of reading, or did your love of reading stem from a love of putting words on a page?

Sarah: Reading came first. I came from a home with lots of bookcases, and one of the happiest moments of my childhood was getting my first library card. Like most bookworms, I made up stories, but mine weren’t any good and I knew it. In 2000, I had a dream with such compelling characters, I had to write their story. That first book will never be published, nor should it, but it got me started.

Rachel: What does your “writing space” look like? Is it vital to your craft to have your own space, or do you work well in “public” areas like the living room?

Sarah: I have my own office now, with a nice big L-shaped desk and a bookcase for my research materials. However, I started writing when my kids were little, and I wrote whenever and wherever I could. I still do lots of writing on the go. Just this afternoon I finished a chapter on my laptop in the dentist’s waiting room during my kids’ appointments.

Rachel: How much of your own personality goes into your characters? Which of your characters are you most like?

Sarah: I try to put as little of my own personality into my characters as possible, and yet a little bit of me goes into each character—it can’t be helped. I do a lot of personality testing on my characters and try to keep actions and reactions true to who they are.

Rachel: Have you ever tried what James Scott Bell calls the “Chapter 2 Switcheroo,” where you exchange the second chapter of your novel for the first in hopes of making a better, more exciting start to your novel? If so, or if you’ve done something similar, what are your thoughts on it? Yea or nay?

Sarah: I’ve never switched chapters 1 and 2, but I scrapped my original first chapter for A Distant Melody and started at a later point, and for my second book, A Memory Between Us, I originally started with a prologue which I eliminated. It’s very common for writers to open with a chapter that’s all backstory then realize it isn’t necessary and axe it.

Rachel: Which is your arch-nemesis: Beginnings, plotting, titles, characterization, or pacing?

Sarah: Plotting, by far. It usually feels like a smackdown wrestling match.

Rachel: Which do you prefer: dialog or description?

Sarah: I adore writing dialogue. Most of my scene sketches are nothing but dialogue, more like a screenplay—and then I fill in the narrative, description, and action.

Rachel: If you had to choose three {dead} authors to read and review your book, who would you choose?

Sarah: Jane Austen, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Maeve Binchy.

Rachel: If you don’t mind sharing, how many times were you rejected by agents and/or publishers before being accepted?

Sarah: I lost count. Several dozen over the course of five years. When I first started submitting, historical fiction wasn’t selling at all. But in 2008, the market flipped and the publishers all wanted historicals. At that point, my first two novels were complete and polished, and the third was all outlined and ready to go—and I got my first contract.

Rachel: Coffee, tea, or lemonade? Rainy days or sunny?

Sarah: Rainy days are my favorite. I like coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon (hot or iced, no sugar), and ice water in the evening so I can sleep. But I do like lemonade on a hot day.

Rachel: Fiction or non-fiction for reading?

Sarah: For me fiction is fun and nonfiction is work. I only read nonfiction for research or for “assignments,” like for Bible study. But my heart is in fiction.

Rachel:  Favorite modern research-aid?

Sarah: I have a lot of fun with Google Maps, especially the “man on the ground” feature that lets you virtually walk down streets and look at the landscape. It’s phenomenal. It really helps me research locations I can’t visit—or refresh my memory for places I have visited.

RachelFinal word for the readers?

Sarah: May 2013 be a year full of blessings and good books!


Thank you so much, Sarah, for dropping by The Inkpen Authoress. I have appreciated hosting you here and getting to hear a bit of your story, wisdom, and techniques. And readers? Drop by Sarah Sundin's blog or Facebook page and get to know her better!

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